One time for Raleigh marketing and social maven S. Dionne. We were at a private birthday dinner for a business associate last month and the conversation turned to music. She adamantly exclaimed that Columbus, Ohio's R?§H?Ð (Rashad) Museum was THE best R&B project she'd heard in a long time. Her reasons were pretty convincing so I had to check it out myself. (Y'all might be surprised to know that I listen to a lot of R&B and pop). Long story short, Dionne was right.
Rashad sings, produces, and mixes his own material. He also produces for others, notably Stalley's Lincoln Way Nights: Intelligent Trunk Music in it's entirety. After multiple, back to back listens of Museum, it dawned on me one reason why it's so good: variety. I hear the styles of The Dream ("Make Love 2 This"), R. Kellly ("How I Feel", on the reprise), Trey Songz ("Let It Be Known"). However the songs on Museum aren't R&B knockoffs. The production combined with variety really sets it apart. "The Life" featuring Styles P has the most eloquent sample of Project Pat's "Chickenhead" I've ever heard.
Museum has lots of what I call "layers". Layers is when you can really hear the different instruments in a song. I'm sure layers may not be the best music journalistic description so just check out "Goosebumps" and listen how the sounds blend together while also standing out (gee I hope that makes sense).
Anyway, for my last Feature Night Thursday of the semester on WXYC 89.3 FM Chapel Hill, Rashad called in to the night's show. Hit the jump to read and listen to our chat, where we talk about Ohio's funk roots, his creative process when producing for others, the importance of "black music", envisioning his legacy and much more.
Nanci O: Musically, what was it like growing up in Columbus, Ohio?
Rashad: It wasn't a lot going on. I was mainly in the house with my Casio keyboard and drum set, from a very young age, about 7 or 8. I had music around me, it was in my household. Then when I was about 13 I ran into a producer from Columbus and he put me in the studio and helped begin my journey.
Who are some of the native Ohio musicians that really influenced your sound?
Rashad: Oh, man, there’s so many. So many native Ohio musicians influenced everybody’s sound, whether they know it or not. But personally, definitely The Ohio Players and Roger Troutman. Dayton, Ohio, in general, that’s where Roger’s from, also Bootsy Collins. There’s just so much talent here and the whole funk was created here. So whatever you hear out in California, whatever their main sound is, that’s pretty much Ohio. So I like to keep the funk and just the whole black influence in my music, because I have to definitely make that prevalent. I owe it to Ohio.
It’s interesting that you mentioned black music, because I do know of some producers and some musicians who really strive to keep black music black. Do you feel like your music does that? Do you feel like the obligation to make sure that the sound is organic, it’s a black sound and connects with a certain type of person or people?
Oh definitely. You can’t water it down. It’s called soul for a reason, and we’ve got to make sure we stay true to our roots. And it’s very important, but it comes natural. I think you only get people that water down their sound when they’re trying to achieve something else. But it’s very important to reach my people. I would never feel a success if I walked out to my audience and I didn’t see my sister or I didn’t see my brother somewhere. Definitely my message and my songs are definitely rooted in that.
Interesting. And digitally-wise, you’re one of the newer R&B artists who have really embraced the power of the internet and used it to your advantage. Is there anything about that tool, that medium of promoting and getting your music out there, that you do not like?
Wow, good question. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that I don’t like about it. From a record industry perspective, I was signed to a major label before and I was in those systems, so I feel like I looked at it only as an addition to the situation and I look at it as a positive. It’s a new way for people to get their music out in a raw, unfiltered type of way. I look at it as nothing but positive.
Cool, okay. I’m going to dig into your personal life just a little bit, nothing too crazy, I promise. [Laughter]
As your music career has grown, how has your circle of friends changed? Drake is like, "no new friends", that’s like the new trend. So has your circle changed any?
Oh not at all. I’m very close with my friends I knew in middle school. I keep my circle always tight, and I kind of understand what Drake is saying. But it’s natural for me to do that. I’m a loyal person, so if you’re loyal to me I’m going to be loyal back, but no changes, no changes. Everybody’s been cool. I don’t think I’ve hit that peak yet. I’ll let you know though.
[Laughter] Okay. Beyond music, do you work a regular job or are you 100 percent focused on your music career right now?
Yeah, since I was young I’ve been blessed to make this my living, through production and writing. There’s production downs, but I stay true. I stay true to this, so this definitely is my day job. It’s definitely been a starving artist type of situation in the past, where you’ve got to make it work for you.
Even with a day job, if you’re doing what you love, folks have hard days, tough days. So if you have tough days, whether you have writer’s block or just a rough day in the studio, how do you get through that? What do you do?
Yeah, I just walk away. You can’t force anything. That’s one thing about in my profession, that you look for inspiration. You need to have those energy fields open, and you definitely need to have your head clear. So my advice is just to walk away. That’s what I do. I walk away, go walk in the park, get my mom, we’ll take a drive, go do something else to clear your head.
Speaking of your mixtape, Museum, which I think is just incredible, it’s been so well received. When you were creating it, did you expect for it to be the phenom that it is, the way people are talking about it online and sharing it? One of my girlfriends was like, “Oh my God, you gotta listen to this mixtape!” Then I told all my other girlfriends. And so on. So did you expect for it to take off like it did?
To be very honest with you, sweetheart, like I’m just now hearing this. I’m not that aware of how people are receiving it yet. I think when I go on tour and I get a chance to meet some people I’ll hear. I get things through the internet, but I don’t hear it enough. So first of all, thank you for that and thank you to your friends that are supporting me and sharing my music, but to be honest, not to sound cocky, but I’m very, very confident in what I do, thanks to God and my support system. I really wanted to put together something that I felt was timeless and so ya’ll stick with me as fans, I continue to do that. So I’m glad it’s being received the way it is, but that was my intention. It really was. So I’m very happy to hear that.
I noticed that throug out entire project, you didn’t use a lot of profanity. Was that intentional, or was that just how the music came out?
If I use profanity, it’s still going to be light and positivity somewhere around it, because I’m just not that individual. I’m just not that type of person. I can swing in any circle, I can go to clubs, I can rock out, but when it comes to my music I can’t put any type of negative energy or any type of – I definitely am all about love and trying to make things better.
I want to talk about Stalley’s Lincoln Way Nights mixtape. Just one question about that, and it came out in 2011. Now that was indisputably, a critically-acclaimed mixtape, and you produced that entire project. What was you guys’ creative process behind that whole piece?
That was pretty much him trusting me. That was a complete full-on trust. I laid the tracks out for him and I told him, “Here’s what you’re going to rap to, man, like here’s some of the hooks.” It was a very just cooperative type of experience, and we made some classics. It was one of the type of situations where the artist wholly trusted the producer, and I had a plan, had a vision. So I’m so happy that was well received.
Do you guys plan on releasing any new music in the future together, or have you guys gone your own creative ways?
Well, we released a few songs here and there since then, and actually I’ll be on his album that he’s working on now with Maybach Music, but in terms of a full-on project, I don’t know. We’ll see if that happens again in the future.
Okay, and then speaking of Maybach Music, since you brought that up, you have a show at S.O.B.’s later this month with Teedra Moses, who I have loved since like 2006, oh my God. [Laughter] Her voice is incredible. So for the folks in New York and around that area or anywhere, who will be coming to see you at S.O.B.’s and they’ve never seen you live before, what can they expect from that experience?
Oh man, you can expect just, man, a lot of show, man. I’m going to do a nice set with a band. A lot of people hear the tuba, the sousaphone in my music, so I’m going to have my live horn player there. It’s going to be live, man. Look forward to hearing your favorites, man. If you’re going to be there and you want me to sing a certain song, hit me on Twitter @RashadMusic and I’ll make sure I put that in there.
All right. As we’re wrapping up, you have the show, your project came out last year and you’re doing music full-time, so do you have any plans to release another full-length project or either an EP before the end of 2013?
Man, that’s my plan. I really, really want to do that. So hopefully this summer look out for new music from me. I don’t have a date yet, but I definitely want to release something. I can’t say how much music, but I definitely want to – I’ve got a lot of music. I don’t want to keep the people waiting.
Okay, and so I always like to ask people to look into their future, because I know some people really like to envision themselves 5 years 10 years ahead, but even beyond that, what do you want your music legacy to be? So when people say Rashad from Columbus, Ohio, what do you envision for yourself, like in the long term?
I like the way you phrased that question, because when people ask me how do I see myself in 5 years I don’t even answer it. I can’t answer it. But in terms of my legacy and what I envision when I’m dead and gone and what people will say, I want people to just know I have a love for my craft. I want people to be inspired by perfecting what they do, because I’m on the road to that and that’s just what I want to do, you know? I just want to be the best at what I do in creating songs. So I just want people to know that.
When they hear my music, man, I’m 110 percent every single song, that I tried to create. So that’s definitely want I want to leave on.
Okay, very cool. Thank you so much for your time, and before you go and before you introduce your song, is there anything else you would like to tell the people of North Carolina and South Carolina about you, your music, your movement, anything that we did not cover in this interview but you really want to make sure comes across?
I think you told them pretty much everything, but I will say if you guys want more from me, check out my website, Elev8TheGame.com, and also if you’re in the New York area, check me out New York May 29th with Teedra Moses at S.O.B.’s, man, and follow me on Twitter @RashadMusic.
Okay, and so, Rashad, can you please introduce your song to the listeners of Chapel Hill and beyond?
Yeah, yeah, what’s up Chapel Hill? It’s your boy Rashad. Thank you for listening to my music and spreading the word. This is my first single off my debut project, it’s called "The Return". If you haven’t seen the video, go check it out [ed note: watch "The Return" here]. It’s one of my favorite songs. Here it is, “The Return”.
Very good, so thank you so much, again, for your time. I really appreciate you speaking with me, sharing your story and everything. It is very much appreciated.
Thank you, thank you. I appreciate it. It’s cool to hear that ya’ll listen to my music and are playing it. Definitely keep in touch.